Food. It’s truly one of life’s greatest pleasures. We celebrate with food, reward ourselves with food, indulge in food, and sometimes—let’s face it—we obsess over food.
What we often fail to remember is that food is fuel. What you put into your body plays a large role in how your body functions… or fails to function. To find out what men and women need as “fuel,” I sought the advice of an expert, Jennifer Canganelli, MS, RD, CDE. A registered dietitian and certified diabetic educator, she works with Ocala Regional Medical Center, West Marion Community Hospital and the Senior Wellness Community Center and also provides personal nutrition consultation through her own business, Family Nutrition Services, LLC. With her master’s in clinical nutrition, Canganelli is a straight shooter who doesn’t mince words about how we should be eating.
By the time she got done with me, I was feeling guilty about processed food and trying to figure out how to eat more fruits and vegetables. At the end of the day, I learned that while there’s not a great difference in nutrition needs between men and women, there are some areas where we can each gain specific benefits from certain foods.
Power of Protein
“The average man or woman needs .8 to 1 gram of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight,” explains Canganelli, “which means that a 115-pound woman needs 52 grams of protein per day, and a 170-pound man needs about 78 grams of protein per day.”
Protein is essential for both men and women, but we need to rethink protein intake. Sure, a big, juicy T-bone steak has protein, but it’s also loaded with fat and calories. Mention protein and most people think red meat, but there are healthier ways to get the protein you need. Lean meat, fish, dairy products, beans and lentils are good-for-you sources of protein.
As Canganelli explains, the best plan is to get the protein you need by eating 3 servings of low-fat dairy per day (think cheese, yogurt, milk) and 5 to 6 ounces of meat per day.
1|Lemon-Mustard Grilled Chicken
Mix together 1 tbsp grated lemon rind, ¾ cup fresh lemon juice, 1/3 cup Dijon mustard, ¼ cup chopped fresh basil. Reserve ½ cup mixture and set aside. Put in large plastic bag and add 4 (6 oz) boneless chicken breasts. Marinate in refrigerator 2 to 3 hours. Remove chicken from marinate. Discard marinade and grill chicken covered over medium-high heat. Baste every 5 minutes with remaining ½ cup marinade mixture and continue grilling until done.
2|Beer & Black Bean Soup
Sauté chopped onion in 2 tbsp olive oil for 5 minutes. Add 1 tsp minced garlic, 2 tsp ground cumin and cook another minute. Stir in 3 cups canned black beans (rinsed and drained), 1 can beer, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil, and then reduce heat, cooking for 10 minutes. Pour half into a blender and puree until smooth. Pour back into skillet with remaining ingredients. Heat through. Add a spritz of fresh lime juice before serving.
Combine 1 ½ pounds ground beef or lamb, spices (¼ cup minced parsley, ¼ cup minced mint, 1 tbsp paprika, ¼ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp ground cumin), juice of 1 lemon, 1 medium diced onion and 1 egg lightly beaten. Shape into eight 3 ½-inch patties. Warm 3 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Grill burgers for 3 to 4 minutes. Spread a layer of hummus on the bottom bun. Top with burger, sliced pickles, lettuce and sliced tomato. Spread more hummus on the top bun.
4|Stir-Fried Thai Pork
Cut 1 pound pork shoulder into bite-sized pieces. Cook in 1 tbsp peanut oil until no longer pink. Remove from heat. Cook 1 ½ tbsp minced garlic for about 20 seconds, then add 1 pound chopped spinach leaves and cook together until just wilted. Add the pork back to the skillet, along with 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce and the juice of half a lime. Stir together until heated through. Serve with brown rice.
Fight Back with Fish
The No. 1 killer in the U.S. is still heart disease, but there are definite diet-related things you can do to fight this statistic. The American Heart Association recommends both men and women eat two meals of “fatty” fish each week. “Fatty” fish might sound questionable, but it’s the omega-3 acids (DHA, EPA) found in fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring that make the difference. Not only do omega-3s offer cardiovascular benefits, but they also fight inflammation in the body, which is at the root of almost all chronic conditions and illnesses.
5|Italian Tuna Pasta Salad
Mix together 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Toss with 4 cups cooked whole wheat pasta, 1 can (6 oz) tuna (drained) 2 cups chopped plum tomatoes, 3 tbsp chopped sweet onion and 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves.
6|Grilled Salmon Over Lentil Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette
Combine mustard, canola oil, tarragon and garlic for marinade. Marinate salmon for 1 hour. Heat grill to 375°F. Boil 3 cups of water. Add lentils, garlic cloves and rosemary sprig. Cook lentils until just tender. Strain in colander. Combine red onion, garlic, mustard, vinegar, canola oil, walnuts and pepper; shake. Season with pepper. Toss lentils, carrots, celery and red onions together. Stir in ¼ cup vinaigrette. Toss in fresh parsley and tarragon. Spray grill lightly with cooking spray, then place salmon on grill. Cook on each side 3 to 4 minutes. Serve over lentil salad.
7|Salmon Cakes with Cucumber Salad
Make salmon cakes by combining 1 can (15 oz) salmon (drained) with 1/3 cup bread panko crumbs, 2 large eggs, salt and pepper to taste. Cook in skillet with a spritz of cooking spray or oil, about 3 minutes per side or until cooked through. Serve with cucumber salad: 2 cucumbers peeled and cut into chunks, 1 cup plain non-fat yogurt, 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill, 1 garlic clove (minced) and 4 tsp lemon juice.
Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!
When it comes to libido, there are many beliefs (and myths) about foods that supposedly get a man “revved up and ready to go.” Take oysters, for example. These slippery shellfish have long been considered to boost libido. Although there’s no scientific research backing this theory, the mind is incredibly powerful. If you think oysters help, then you’ll likely find anecdotal “evidence” to support that idea.
Oysters do contain high amounts of the mineral zinc, which helps control progesterone levels. Because zinc deficiency is linked to male impotence, it certainly can’t hurt to eat zinc-rich foods, such as oysters.
When it comes down to bedroom performance, people like to think specific foods boost libido, but the truth isn’t that sexy. As Canganelli points out, a large number of American men are on blood pressure medication, which has been shown to negatively impact their ability to function sexually. Maintaining an appropriate weight through a healthy diet and exercise doesn’t sound exciting, but it’s one of the best ways to ensure continued “performance ability.”
When it comes to food, potassium is excellent for both heart health and blood pressure control, so add potassium-rich foods to your diet several times a week. In addition to bananas and orange juice, good sources of potassium are milk, yogurt, broccoli, cantaloupe, potatoes, spinach, watermelon, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, prunes, winter squash, lentils and all types of dry beans.
Speaking of blood pressure, take a close look at your sodium intake.
“Most Americans eat about 4,000mg or more per day, and the recommended limit is 1,500 per day,” says Canganelli.
“Men tend to gain weight around the middle as they age,” she notes. “This puts them at an increased risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia. Any male with a waist of 40 inches or larger needs to lose weight to decrease this risk.”
If you still like the idea of food contributing to libido, consider the following—although not all are backed by scientific study:
Contains the male hormone androsterone said to stimulate sexual arousal in women. (We’re wondering if it counts when dipped in blue cheese dressing and served with chicken wings…)
Besides the fact that it just plain tastes good, chocolate contains compounds such as phenylethylamine, which releases dopamine in the brain’s pleasure centers.
Considered a “superfood,” the avocado is loaded with minerals, potassium, vitamin B6, antioxidants and heart-friendly monounsaturated fat.
Contains B vitamins, nutrients, enzymes and phyto chemicals, as well as boron, a trace mineral that studies have shown may enhance testosterone levels in the blood.
Revered as an aphrodisiac in China, research shows that nutmeg increased mating behavior in mice (as if we need more mice!).
Canganelli notes that men wanting to promote fertility should be sure their diets contain adequate vitamin C (90mg) and zinc (11mg) daily, as this leads to the production of healthy sperm.
What About Prostate Health?
Lycopene, the antioxidant found in the tomato, has been proven to reduce the risk of prostate cancer because it protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. Lycopene also boosts the immune system and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Men should have a minimum of one serving of tomatoes each week, but if you like them, you can eat them every day,” says Canganelli. “You can increase your tomato intake by adding them to salads but also by eating pizza (with tomato sauce) and drinking V8 Juice. Ketchup counts, but preferably not on fries! A great way to get a good serving of lycopene is whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce.
8|Pico de Gallo
Combine 6 chopped plum tomatoes, 1 chopped medium onion, 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, 2 tbsp lime juice, 1 clove minced garlic and a dash of salt. Chill at least an hour to mingle flavors. Serve with baked tortilla chips or atop grilled meat or fish.
9|Mediterranean Green Beans & Olives
Cut French bread into ½-inch thick slices and drizzle with olive oil. Toast until just crisp and place on plate. Toss together 1 ½ cups tomato wedges, 1 cup blanched fresh green beans, ½ cup sliced onion, ½ cup quartered Kalamata olives, 3 tbsp tomato juice, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, ½ tsp chopped fresh thyme, 1 clove crushed garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Serve over toasted bread slices.
10|Tomato Summer Sandwich
Stir together 1 (3 oz) pkg fat-free cream cheese, ¼ cup no-fat mayonnaise, 2 tsp chopped fresh basil, salt and pepper to taste. Spread on slices of fresh baguette and top with sliced plum tomatoes.
11|Grilled Fennel & Tomatoes
Trim fronds from 2 bulbs fresh fennel, and cut fennel lengthwise into ½-inch wedges. Cut 2 large tomatoes into quarters. Brush vegetables with 3 tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and grill 10 to 12 minutes or until fennel begins to caramelize on edges, turning occasionally. During last 5 minutes, place tomatoes on grill rack and grill just until they soften, turning once.
Beer Is Healthy?
We’ve all heard that a glass of red wine per day is good for the heart, but research has shown that the benefits of alcohol aren’t limited to wine alone.
“Beer has fiber (it contains hops, which is related to wheat), and it reduces the risk of kidney stones and increases bone density,” says Canganelli.
Lest you think downing a six-pack every night can be considered healthy, keep in mind that too much of a good thing can backfire. When the experts say one or two servings of beer, they’re talking 12-ounce servings.
To get benefits from alcohol, intake should not exceed 1 to 2 drinks per day.
Here’s how it breaks down:
1 serving = 12 ounces
1 serving = 5 ounces
1 serving = 1½ ounces
Color your Food!
OK, be honest… when was the last time you actually ate the recommended amount of 5 cups of fruits and vegetables in one day?
“One of the best things you can do is eat a ‘colorful’ diet. Color signifies nutrition. For example, lycopene gives tomatoes their red coloring,” says Canganelli. “Men and women both need 5 cups daily of fruits and vegetables combined.”
Cook until just tender 2 cups carrots cut into julienne strips. Drain and set aside. In sauté pan, melt 4 tbsp butter, adding 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp lemon juice, ½ tsp paprika. Mix well, and add cooked carrots, stirring to cover with glaze. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley to serve.
13|Fresh Blueberry Chicken Salad with Almonds
Dice chicken breasts and place in mixing bowl. Sprinkle red onion with rice vinegar; toss into bowl. Add green onion, parsley, cranberries and blueberries; fold gently to mix. In small mixing bowl, add mayonnaise, yogurt and sweet mustard. Blend well; fold dressing into salad. Garnish with toasted almonds.
14|Got the Blues Salad
Toss ¾ lb mixed spring greens with bottled balsamic vinaigrette and 1 pkg (4 oz) blue cheese crumbles. Top with 1 pint strawberries cut into quarters and 2 oranges peeled and cut into thin slices. Sprinkle with 1 cup chopped toasted pecans.
15|Honey Apple Salad
Toss together 3 ½ cups diced red apples, 2 tbsp lemon juice. Add 2 cups green grapes, 1 cup thinly sliced celery. Stir together in separate bowl ½ cup no-fat mayonnaise, ¼ cup honey, 2 tbsp no-fat sour cream. Mix in fruit. Stir in ½ cup chopped walnuts.
16|Green Beans in a Creamy Mushroom Sauce
Soak 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms in ½ cup boiling water for 20 minutes. Melt 2 tbsp butter. Add 1 small onion, diced; sauté. Add 2 garlic cloves, chopped, and 1 tsp thyme, chopped; sauté. Add 8 ounces cremini mushrooms; sauté 10-15 minutes. Add porcini mushrooms and water they were soaking in to pan. Simmer at medium-high for 10 minutes. Add ½ cup cream and ½ cup parmigiano-Reggiano, grated; season with salt and pepper. Simmer until it thickens. Steam 1 pound green beans. Remove mushrooms from heat; mix in handful parsley, chopped.
Just for Women
Coffee lovers won’t like this one, but research has shown that decreasing caffeine one to two weeks before your period has been shown to reduce PMS symptoms.
You should also up your intake of healthy omega-3s by eating several servings of “fatty” fish each week. You can also get a day’s worth of alpha-linolenic acid by adding 2 tablespoons of flaxseed or a handful of walnuts to your daily diet.
Women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) will find relief by decreasing sugar, increasing fiber and avoiding alcohol.
For reproductive health, women of child-bearing age need folic acid (400 mcg per day). You can find folic acid in fortified foods, such as breads, cereals, citrus fruits, liver, nuts and vitamin supplements, as well as dark, green, leafy vegetables—think spinach and kale.
Women need iron-rich foods because they regularly lose iron through their monthly cycles. Best sources for iron? Red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, beans and lentils, kale and spinach.
“If you combine citrus fruits with iron, it increases absorption,” says Canganelli. “For example, add strawberries to a fortified cereal, or add mandarin oranges to your spinach salad.”
Menopause brings a variety of physical changes, and unfortunately, for many women, weight gain is one of those. There’s a good reason to get serious about fighting those extra pounds.
“A weight gain of 20 pounds after menopause increases your risk of breast cancer by 20 percent,” says Canganelli.
Best way to ward off the weight after menopause? Decrease your intake of processed food, and increase consumption of whole foods; don’t skip meals, and exercise regularly.
17|Grilled Chicken with Peanut Sauce
Cook boneless chicken breasts on the grill over medium heat until done (about 8 minutes), turning occasionally. Serve with peanut sauce: 1 small chopped sweet onion, 1 tsp ginger, ½ tsp ground red pepper, 1 tsp corn oil, ½ cup peanut butter, 1 cup water, 1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce. Heat sauce to boil and cook 3 minutes, stirring until thick.
18|Rice & Bean Salad
Stir together 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, ½ tsp ground red pepper, ½ tsp grated lime rind, ¼ cup fresh lime juice, dash salt. Add 2 cups cooked brown rice, 1 can (15 oz) black beans (rinsed and drained), 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans (rinsed and drained), 4 chopped green onions, ¼ cup chopped cilantro, ¼ cup chopped fresh mint. Sprinkle with ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese.
19|Roasted Broccoli, Walnuts & Pasta
Cut 1 head broccoli into florets. Toss with 3 tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, ½ cup chopped walnuts, dash salt. Spread on cookie sheet, and roast in 400°F oven about 13 minutes, stirring twice, until broccoli is crisp-tender. Serve over whole wheat pasta, and top with grated fresh Parmesan cheese.
20|Spinach & Strawberry Salad
Combine 2 pkgs (10 oz each) fresh spinach with 1 quart fresh sliced strawberries. Serve with bottled poppy seed dressing, and sprinkle with ½ cup sliced toasted almonds or walnuts.
Warding Off Type 2 Diabetes
“In the last five to 10 years, there’s been a great increase in children with type 2 diabetes, which we never used to see, and this is linked directly to obesity,” notes Canganelli. “If we could cure obesity, we would take a huge chunk out of the whole health care industry. Our population as a whole is overweight, and many people are morbidly obese. We need to move more and eat less!”
If you’re looking for a “magic” food to keep from becoming a diabetes statistic, there isn’t one. Maintaining an appropriate body weight range is the No. 1 thing you can do to avoid diabetes. This means eating right and exercising regularly… so unoriginal, but it works!
Sources: eatright.org, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes & Gardens